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Hoisting sturgeon to pose for photos?

Carrie Wilson author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com

’ve seen several pictures over the years of anglers hoisting oversized sturgeon out of the water and dragging them back to the dock for pictures. Isn’t it against the law to treat fish that are to be released this way? How should oversized sturgeon be handled, given that the justifiably proud angler would like to get a picture or two before releasing? (Jim J.)

Answer: Regulations for sturgeon have become more protective since 2006, so hopefully you were looking at old-time pictures. There are two important issues here – the regulations and doing what is best for the sturgeon. What follows is only about white sturgeon since green sturgeon are a threatened species and thus may not be taken, possessed or removed from the water. If a green sturgeon is caught, it must be released immediately.

Without regard to fish species, the regulations state that all fish “…less than the legal minimum size or greater than the maximum legal size must be returned immediately to the water from which they were taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.62). Because white sturgeon have a legal minimum size of 40 inches fork length, and a legal maximum size of 60 inches fork length, it is indeed against the law to bring an oversized white sturgeon to a dock (or even into a boat) for pictures. Photographs of oversized white sturgeon may only be taken of fish while still in the water.

Oversized white sturgeon being held slightly out of the water to pose for a quick photo, courtesy of Carrie Wilson
Oversized white sturgeon posing for a quick photo, courtesy of Carrie Wilson

Anglers are not prohibited from taking oversized fish out of the water, but the regulations (as part of several special protections for white sturgeon) also state that, “Any white sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately” (CCR Title 14, sections 5.80 and 27.90). These sections give anglers what amounts to an 8-inch margin of error when measuring white sturgeon in the water.

As far as what’s best for any sturgeon that will be released, according to CDFW sturgeon expert Marty Gingras, the answer is clear. “End the fight quickly and keep the sturgeon’s head in the water. Blood-chemistry studies show sturgeon become stressed from the fight and from being removed from the water, and tissue studies show stressed females that survive are less likely to spawn normally.”

Handling these behemoths with care is critical as they are essentially protected broodstock. These large fish will be important to carry California’s sturgeon populations through droughts and other challenges, as well as to build future generations of these incredible fish for tomorrow’s anglers.

How to become a hunting guide?
Question: How can I become a hunting guide? Do I have to have a license or is there a course I need to go through to become a hunting guide? (Billy S.)

Answer: There are no courses or tests to take to become a hunting guide. “Guide” means any person who is engaged in the business of packing or guiding, or who, for compensation, assists another person in taking or attempting to take any bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, or reptile. “Guide” also includes any person who, for profit, transports other persons, their equipment, or both to or from hunting or fishing areas.

The basic requirements are to first fill out an application with the CDFW and pay the license fees. Current cost of an annual resident guide’s license runs $212.70. Employees of the guide who assist in the service are also required to have a Guide Employee Registration license that costs $46.87.

Guides may not have any CDFW violations in their past so applicants may be required to go through a CDFW background check to check for previous violations.

The last requirement is for the guide to purchase and maintain a “performance bond.” The bond assures that any deposit money received from a client to reserve a future trip will be returned in the event that the guide cancels and tries to keep the deposit.

Redeeming gift vouchers?
Question: I received a 2015 annual fishing license as a gift but I’d already bought mine for the year. Can I turn it back in for a refund? I’ve heard that fishing license gift vouchers require the recipient to return to the exact store where the voucher was purchased and present all of their personal information in order to trade the voucher for a legal license? Is this true? (Brent G.)

Answer: No, it’s much easier than that. Gift vouchers can be redeemed for an annual resident sport fishing license anywhere licenses are sold, or online. While gift vouchers are nonrefundable, they are transferable since they have no customer attached to them until redeemed. Since you received an extra gift voucher, you can give it to a friend or relative and they can redeem it for a resident sport fishing license.

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.go

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